Colin Tennant, 3rd Baron Glenconner

1 Dec 1926
27 Aug 2010
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Colin Christopher Paget Tennant, 3rd Baron Glenconner (1 December 1926 – 27 August 2010) was a Scottish aristocrat. He was the son of Christopher Grey Tennant, 2nd Baron Glenconner, and Pamela Winefred Paget. He was also the nephew of Edward Wyndham Tennant and Stephen Tennant, and the brother of novelist Emma Tennant.

Before succeeding to the peerage, he had travelled widely, especially in India and the West Indies. He was a close friend of Princess Margaret, to whom his wife was a lady-in-waiting, and an avid socialite. In 1958, he purchased the island of Mustique in The Grenadines for £45,000.

Colin Tennant was born on 1 December 1926, the son of the second Baron Glenconner. His mother Pamela was the daughter of Sir Richard Paget, 2nd Baronet. After his parents divorced in 1935, he was educated at Eton College, but for years Tennant rarely saw his father.

Holidays from Eton were spent with his maternal grandmother, Muriel Paget, a formidable grande dame who had diverted a train from the Crimea to Siberia in the First World War to save the lives of 70 British nannies.

After finishing his schooling at Eton, Tennant enlisted in the Irish Guards, serving during the tail end of World War II and attaining the rank of lieutenant.

After the war he went up to New College, Oxford: “I read diplomatic history from 1898 to 1904. It was not very helpful.” At Oxford he gained a reputation for being terribly kind to plain girls with nice manners and extremely waspish to pretty ones with nasty manners.

After graduating, he worked for the family firm, C. Tennant, Sons & Co. in London and at the same time began to attract the attention of the gossip columns as Princess Margaret’s escort.

During the early 1950s he was often involved in amateur dramatics; in 1953 he took part, with Princess Margaret, in a production for charity of an Edgar Wallace play, The Frog; Tennant played the title role (a serial killer) and the Princess was assistant stage director.

It was during this period that Tennant was spotted as a possible husband for Princess Margaret, who had been publicly hurt by the collapse of her hopes of marrying the divorced commoner Group Captain Peter Townsend during 1953.

During the following year he was forced to deny newspaper reports that he would shortly announce his engagement to the Princess. “I don’t expect she would have had me,” he was quoted as saying, in later years.

In 1956 Tennant married Lady Anne Coke, by whom he later had three sons and twin daughters. Lady Anne was the daughter of Thomas Coke, 5th Earl of Leicester. Lady Anne had been one of Queen Elizabeth II’s Maids of Honour at the 1953 coronation, and was also a friend of the Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret.

As a guest at their wedding, Princess Margaret met for the first time Tony Armstrong-Jones (later her husband), who was hired to take wedding pictures.

After purchasing the Caribbean island of Mustique in 1958, Tennant built a new village for its inhabitants, planted coconut palms, vegetables and fruit, and developed the fisheries.

In 1960 the British royal yacht Britannia carried Princess Margaret and her new husband, now Lord Snowdon, on a honeymoon cruise around the Caribbean. The royal couple visited Mustique to accept a wedding gift from Tennant, a plot of land on which the Princess was to build her holiday retreat, Les Jolies Eaux.

The cost of running Mustique depleted Glenconner’s family fortune, and he was obliged to take on business partners. Eventually, he went into exile on St. Lucia, where for many years he rang the “Bang Between the Pitons” restaurant (now sold to the adjacent Jalousie Plantation hotel).

In 2000 a documentary by Joseph Bullman was made about Lord Glenconner, entitled The Man Who Bought Mustique. It chronicled Glenconner’s first visit to Mustique since his exile.

In 1963 his father, the 2nd Baron Glenconner, sold the family merchanting business, C. Tennant & Sons, to Consolidated Goldfields, and Tennant suddenly inherited £1 million.

At first father and son were retained as chairman and deputy chairman, but after his father’s retirement in 1967, Tennant failed to become chairman and resigned.

Over the years the Tennants became significant landowners as well as industrialists. Part of their land was in the West Indies, including a neglected 15,000 acres in Trinidad.

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